Monthly Archives: February 2008

Spring Itch

It’s that time of year again. I realised it when I was driving into university this week. Daffodil heads were just beginning to open, and I saw a lonely patch of purple crocuses standing to attention by the roadside. On my way out of the car park, a waft of honeyed breeze surrounded me for a few moments, blowing over from the huge hawthorn tree, covered in white blossoms. In ‘The Pocket Muse’, writer, Monica Wood warns:

‘You’ve been overtaken by the great wash of changed air, the notion of bees waking in the hive, the blinding joy of longer sunshine and tiny grass shoots, and the emerging cycle of life, blah, blah, blah. Beware, writer friends! This is the season when our worst sentimental impulses take over, and the Muse sits smoking in a corner, rolling her eyes.’

She’s right! I succumbed in a big way last year. So, though I’m wildy itching to start composing haiku about the cherry trees on my road; the way the yellow sodium streetlights shine through the branches, making floral shadows at night time; the pregnant buds and soft new leaves – AHHHH STOP! This will be my small literary austerity.

Speaking of literary austerity, I think this is the ninth or tenth post I’ve written this month. Hm. I think I’m going to lay off a little on the blogging. Less is more.

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Three Themes

My tutor gave us three themes: Home, Time and Identity, and asked us to write a brief poem or piece of prose exploring them in any way.

Home

Home is round, home is complete. The ‘O’ tells me that I am in the right place. Standing in the centre of those four people, our palindromic unit. Two older, two younger, and me. Home is orange rectangles, sharply defined in the dark indigo night. Home is: places that occupy layers of memory. Here I see the same roof, the same lawn; here I stand, there I played. Home is here and home is there; as I get older I realise this. Home is not my town or my country. Home is water, hot or cold. Home is spices: cumin, mustard and turmeric. Home is in the songs I sing; in the notes I play; home lives within the tune of the morning and the evening. I dance the steps of home wherever I am, those invisible patterns etched on every floor. Home is there, in that place beyond to which I journey; one more firefly in the dusk.

Time

Tell me brother, who you are. You blue clothed boy; with your peach skin smooth face. Lying amongst frills, who are you? You, little seed, how tall is the tree that rests within you? Who are you, as those first teeth cut through swollen gums? What dreams skip beneath your eyelids as your summer freckles lie on the pillow? How many words rest inside your little mouth? Tell me brother, who you are. What secrets lie within those growing hands and feet? You of confident smile and budding sarcasm, who are you? You, proud owner of a digital watch and freshly bruised knees. Who are you brother, with your world, ten years from mine?

…………………………….

 

 

 

Identity

J is for Jahnavi, a sacred river.
A is for altar, my compass needle,
H is for the hands with which I write.
N, for never forgetting faces, must be thousands by now.
A is also for amateur, in every way.
V is for the instrument that shapes my hours,
I, for Indus – ancient valley of home.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Family, Inspiration!, Krishna Consciousness, University Coursework

7th Annual Sri Thyagaraja Utsavam

In my previous post about Thyagaraja, I mentioned the festival held in his honour worldwide, normally during the month of January. Here in London this weekend, (where it still feels like January) this festival will be celebrated through two evenings of concerts. I’ll be playing ‘Brocheva’ in Ragam Sri Ranjani, along with some other fellow students; and my guru, Sri AGA Gnanasundaram, will be playing the following evening. See the poster here.

Here’s some videos from this year’s festival in Thiruvayaru.

The Nadasudha concert two weeks ago went well. As usual, I felt like even after so much practise, it wasn’t nearly enough to help me play well under pressure, but, you live and learn I suppose. It was exciting just to be part of the event. It was pretty big, with over ninety students particpating. Sitting in the audience after my part was over was definitely a humbling experience, as advanced students my age and younger played more and more complex pieces. After almost four hours of the concert, it was getting late and I had been at a dance rehearsal all day, with another one starting at 9am the next morning, but the finale, a series of pieces played by my guru and one of his seniormost disciples, was definitely worth losing some sleep for.

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Under the bed, amidst the dust…

I found this poem that I wrote during the winter. I’m in the middle of doing a major cleanup of my room – so major, that I had time to sit down and write this, just because I wanted to throw away the piece of paper.

Last night
The chill moved in
with the sureness
of a sealed envelope.
Pin sharp air
Movement frozen
Sudden stop
Each drip frozen, mid drop
Turned stone hard
like Easter Island faces
Motionless until the dawn

Then 10 o’ clock
They move once more!
All down the road
Between the branches of every tree
Beneath every eave
The sound, almost silent
Drip drop
drop drip
Drip drop

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Unpacking a Night-time Prayer

My Mum came back from Canada this afternoon, her suitcase stuffed with small leftovers from Zaida’s apartment. I unzipped the small side pockets and pulled out fat envelopes, bursting with old photos, their scalloped edges giving away their age. It was strange looking through them. My grandad’s entire life could be seen in just a few of them: from his baby photo, to his yearbook entry; days in the war; his wedding; anniversaries; children’s weddings; holidays. The oldest photos were tiny; no bigger than postage stamps. As the dates on the bottom increased, so did the size; the paper became thinner and glossier and the colours more lifelike. I felt like I was watching a life in fast forward.

I dumped them all in a plastic bag when I was done, sticking the fresh newspaper with his eulogy in it on top. And now I’m sitting here, writing to about it, when I should just be going to bed.

Last night, as it was Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day, I sang ‘Boro Sukher Khabor Ghai’ and ‘Nitai Guna Mani’ with my Dad. It was a nice enough day at the temple, but I came home feeling unsatisfied. Sometimes festival days are so predictable. I know what will happen, and in what order (and not just because it’s posted on the temple noticeboard). There’s comfort in predictability, but I think it’s a bad thing if the routine is not a particularly helpful one. I wish there were more constructive ways to serve or remember Krishna on festival days, in the wider context of the community. There’s so much joy in performing service together – even the most menial things. Maybe all it takes is someone to organise it and actually ask people to take part. I guess I just get frustrated when I feel like it’s all too much of a social event. I love to be with my friends, and talk, and have fun, but I think that festival days should be more than that. Anyway, it’s late now and I’m just rambling. My original point was that I sang the bhajans with my dad later at home – it was so nice. The words of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Narottama Dasa Thakura, Locana Das Thakura…the list could go on – they are one of my greatest sources of inspiration. In that brief half an hour, singing about how Lord Nityananda eagerly tries to sell the holy name, to whoever will have a little faith; how he cuts down the boundaries of the channel of love of God, allowing it to splash freely from house to house…in that half an hour I understood more than I had all day, going through the motions in the morning program and eating the feast.

The truth is
One day this life will be contained
Within the moving walls
Of a plastic bag
Dear Lord Nityananda
I wish I was humble enough to see
That I am not even fit to call myself
Your devotee
But I am happily blind to the fact
Feasting and laughing
And enjoying life in any way I can
Please find that golden speck of truth and sincerity
It’s there
Somewhere
Down in the dark depths of my well-like heart
That speck is my eternal soul
The soul that knows
that you are my only source of peace
and happiness
Please catch my moments of clarity
Fuzzy as they are
And know, that I really mean it
When I say I want your mercy.
Or at the very least,
I know that I want to want it.
Really really want it.
Is that enough?
I have lived for so long
How many plastic bags have I filled,
in attics and cupboards
across the world?
How many times have I spoken prayers like this,
with so little faith?
If nothing else,
I pray to eternally chant your name,
never forgetting,
who I really am.
I pray to follow you from a distance,
always,
even if I don’t deserve to.
And perhaps,
one day,
perhaps in a few more lifetimes of plastic bags
and faded photos,
I can come home,
another atom
at your lotus feet.

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Shadow Hands

This guy is amazing! Talk about creativity…

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In Loving Memory of My Zaida

My grandfather’s funeral is tomorrow. It will take place thousands of miles from here, in Winnipeg (Canada), where it is almost 40 degrees below zero right now. I wrote this to be read out during the service.

You have known me from the start, from the first time I met you, a little blob with red hair, aged six months.
But our times together were rare and brief,
So far away, I knew you through those clearly printed capitals,
Every birthday, the love and kisses crossed on each page.
Those moments, so few
An hour here, an afternoon there,
Sitting at your feet, or at a breakfast table,
As you told me about your life; the places you’d been; the things you’d seen;
I remember you laughing as you told me what all the soldiers would get up to when you were stationed in England.

My favourite times with you, were in those moments that we had alone,
Those moments that I felt we connected, reaching over the gulf of age and unshared circumstance.
You always taught me the importance of education and of keeping your brain sharp.
I tried to keep up with you as you worked through your crosswords, but I was no match!
You taught me so much about generosity and kindness.
I came over for just a few hours last summer, and found you’d filled the fridge with fruit and vegetables – all for me!
You taught me so many things Zaida; about tolerance and perseverance; hard work; determination.
You taught me indirectly also; in my mum I can see so much influence from you.
In bringing her up to be the person she is, you have given me the gift of a perfect role model.

I know we didn’t see eye to eye on everything;
But I have always felt proud to be your grandaughter.
I am forever grateful for the hours I spent with you the past two summers.
Leaving your apartment, I knew it would probably be the last time I would see you, and I think you knew too.
I wish I could’ve been there to give you one last hug and kiss, and tell you how much I loved you.

I hope that these words reach you now, and that you can hear me say farewell as your ship leaves the bay.
Everything lies ahead.
We can’t come with you, but we will always be with you in spirit.

I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always,
as long as I’m living, my Zaida you’ll be.

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